Fly fishing vs Regular Fishing

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Fishing is one of the most popular and well-known commercial and recreational activities in the world. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey showed that 38.8 million anglers went fishing in 2016. With that amount of anglers, it would be safe to assume that most people have some kind of idea of what fishing is. However, assumptions are dangerous. The Oxford dictionary defines fishing as, the activity of catching fish, either for food or as a sport.

There are many different methods to catch a fish from the simple hook and line to deep-sea fishing for marlin. This article will focus on recreational fishing and explore the differences between fly fishing vs spin fishing. Before we dive right in, let’s take a little history walk.

History of Fishing

Archaeologists found fish fossils that point to Homo habilis as the first fishermen, around 500,000 years ago. Also, in 2005 researchers found evidence of prehistoric fishing gear found in caves in the island nation of East Timor which is located between Indonesia and Australia. In the cave, they found large fish remains and hooks made out of bones. The fishing hooks date back to about 42,000 years ago. And who knows what else they used at this time for survival fishing.

There is no substantial evidence that fishing developed until the spear, net, line, and rod appeared in Egypt around 2000 BC. Evidence of fishing is also found in ancient Roman and Greek writings. Before recreational fishing was a thing, subsistence fishing was the only reason for earlier fishermen and still is true for many parts of the world.

In the 15th century, deep-sea fishing improved from the Dutch, forming fleets that could pull drift nets and could remain at sea for weeks. This was made possible by sea cargo boats supplying them while at sea. From here, in Great Britain, the fishing industry saw the first trawlers replace sails with steam power. With the new power, the trawlers could pull larger nets. This dramatically increased the seafood trade industry.

History of Fly Fishing

The Roman Claudius Aelianus near the end of the 2nd century, wrote the Varia Historia where he gives an explanation of fly fishing, using lures of red wool and feathers. This may answer when was the fishing fly created.

Fast forward to 1496, The Treatyse on Fysshynge with an Angle was published. The book contains instructions on rod, line and hooks making the dressings for different flies to use at different times of the year.

The earliest record in Japan appeared in the late 1800s. The traditional Japanese method of fly fishing is known as Tenkara. It originated in the mountains of Japan where local fishermen would catch fish for guests staying at the local inn.

The Secrets of Angling, was an English poetical paper on angling by John Dennys published in 1613. The phrase ‘cast a fly’ was first mentioned in the book. After the English Civil War, there was more time to explore the pleasures of fishing and more books were being published. Robert Venables published his book, The Experienced Angler. Izaak Walton in 1653 wrote The Compleat Angler, celebrating the art and body of fishing.

Now we have a few hints of how regular fishing or fly fishing was scattered throughout the world over thousands of years from Egypt, Rome, Japan and more recently England.

Recreational fishing started to appear more in the 18th century and wasn’t easily available to everyone because it was expensive, as new technology is. And lands were owned by the wealthy. There were no national or state parks at this time. As technology improved and lands became more available and fishing became more accessible to everyone.

What is Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is a beautiful sport that is a dance between the fly fishermen and his rod. Anytime I hear the word fly fishing, my thoughts always go back to the first time I saw someone fishing a small stream out in Montana. It was a lovely moment and it is something that I wanted to try. However, there is a lot more to fly fishing than just a pole and reel. Fly fishing equipment includes a fly rod, fly line, leader, and fly. There are several different types of fly rods that can choose from. The fly line acts at the weight that carries your light-weight fly to its target. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to properly cast. And there are sinking fly lines and floating fly lines that you can choose depending on the type of fishing. The leader is fishing line that connects to the fly line. It acts as the transition piece because it’s essentially invisible to them. With its absence, the fish would see the big thick fly line every time and scare it away. The fly is an ultra-light-weight lure that can either float or sink depending on the presentation that you are attempting. The lures are generally much smaller than regular fishing lures. You can buy them online and at your local store or make them by hand. When casting there are more variables that you have to be aware of and for the most part, casting is the most important part of fly fishing. Casting is important because the goal is to present the artificial lure, most commonly referred to as the fly, and make it irresistible to the fish. To do this it is critical to use lures that most resembles its natural environment.

How to Cast a Fly Rod

With one hand, grab the fly rod with your fingers wrapped around the handle. Your thumb will be pointing out in front of you. Make sure there is not a lot of your leader in the water. You want to start your casting process with a little leader in the water. Slowly lift the rod up until the line and leader barely leaves the water. Pull the rod back quickly and elegantly overhead and stop when the angle between your foreman and the fly rod is at 45 degrees. Now move the rod overhead, stopping when your arm is at the opposite 45 degrees. You can slowly lower the rod tip until it returns to the original position or you can continue to repeat the entire casting process, back and forward, smoothly until you reach your intended target. Remember, as you repeat the process you want to allow line out naturally. Do not try and feed the line out of the reel or restrict the line. You want the momentum, either slow or fast, from your casting to decide the distance of your fly. Increasing your casting distance will improve as you practice more.

What is Regular Fishing

It’s not easy to say what is “regular” fishing although it can be defined as any type of recreational fishing that uses a rod and reel that is not a fly rod combo. Normal fishing can be considered spin fishing which is a rod used with a spinner real that is located below the rod or a bait caster which is a revolving spool that sits on top of the pole. Spin and baitcast combos can be used for bottom fishing which means you don’t cast the lure or bait, you just drop the bait or lure right below you. Or you can use the combos to cast the lure or bait to your intended target. With regular fishing, you can use live bait which may be a large advantage. Artificial lures range in size from small spinners, fake worms, or large fake minnows.

What is the Difference between Fly Fishing and Regular Fishing

The rod and real setup are one of the biggest differences between the two. Only fly setups use fly lines, while normal fishing uses fishing line as its fly line. Most popular type is filament line. Spin and baitcast setups do not use floating lines like fly fishing setup. Fly fishing lures are much smaller and lighter than normal fishing setups. So light that you wouldn’t be able to properly cast a spinning combo if you tried to cast with an artificial fly. Besides the equipment used, the second biggest difference would be the casting between the two types.


Who knows what new evidence researchers will find next that can tell us more about the history of fishing. There is still a lot that is unknown. Fishing has brought much enjoyment no matter if you like to fly fish or use a spin rod or bait caster. There are differences between the two but the end goal is the same. Both methods will help you catch fish.

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